McNulty Appointment and the need for Seanad Reform

[Speaking in the Seanad during Order of Business]

I pay tribute to two extra-parliamentary political figures who have done the right thing in the past two days. Mr. Dale McDermott from Young Fine Gael correctly pointed to the incongruence between the Fine Gael Party’s pre-election commitment to political reform which was partially responsible for the party receiving my humble endorsement in the previous general election and the actions of the Taoiseach in the appointment of Mr. John McNulty to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art. While Mr. McNulty is probably well qualified for the position by virtue of his previous curriculum vitae, it is likely that he is wholly unqualified for it by virtue of his inability to see the job through. I also pay tribute to Ms Samantha Long who did an honourable thing in resigning her membership of the Fine Gael Party on this issue.

An Cathaoirleach: I have ruled that issue out of order. Senators may not speak about people outside the House who are not able to defend themselves. In addition, the individuals concerned do not have any role in the matter.

Senator John Crown: I fail to see how it could be out of order to pay tribute to someone. We have paid tribute to all manner of people, from farmers to GAA players to local advocates, throughout the three and a half years I have been a Senator and none of these tributes has ever been ruled out of order. The only thing that appears to be out of order is that it is probably creates an odour for the leadership of Fine Gael that these unfortunate realities are being brought home to roost in this Chamber where they are most relevant.

It is essential that the Taoiseach provide a commitment and firm timeline for his plans for Seanad reform. His behaviour towards the Seanad has been regrettable from day one. His pre-election promise to hold a referendum to abolish the Seanad was valid and an honourable question was put to the people and defeated. However, the manner in which the campaign was conducted was not so honourable. People sent a clear message that there was a real and palpable need for Seanad reform. I was delighted, therefore, when Mr. McDermott of Young Fine Gael stated one of the things that needed to be fixed was the onerous panel system. I fully agree with him that it should be abolished. Why can we not have a reform based on universal franchise to a co-equal Chamber?

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